December news
Health News – December 2023
4 December 2023
February’s Health News
Health News – February 2024
6 February 2024
January 2024 Health News

Dear SCH Reader,

Welcome to the start of the 3rd year’s monthly edition of your favourite health news roundup! With the wintery weather mainly still to come, the football season at the half-way mark and new year’s resolutions in full effect, please enjoy these four selected articles from the past month :-

inews 5th Dec – Junior doctors set for longest ever NHS strike in December and January:

Junior doctors will stage more strikes in England later this month and in January after talks between the Government and British Medical Association broke down. The announcement of fresh walkouts during the “busiest time of the year” dismayed senior NHS figures, with one describing it as the decision they were dreading.

The new year walkout will be the longest experienced by the NHS, the BMA has said. Junior doctors will strike from 7am on Wednesday 20 December to 7am on Saturday 23 December – running straight into the Christmas holiday season when hospitals are already short staffed – and then for six consecutive days from 7am on Wednesday 3 January to 7am on Friday 9 January.

Up to this point the longest ever strike in NHS history took place earlier this year for five consecutive days from 13 to 18 July. Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “This is the outcome that trust leaders were dreading. This will be the longest strike in NHS history during the busiest and toughest time of the year for the NHS. These strikes will undermine efforts to cut waiting lists further, they’ll have a knock-on effect on services right across the NHS, and they’ll impact the quality of care for patients.”

Sir Julian added: “It isn’t too late for the Government and unions to sort out this dispute and to prevent more strikes. Trust leaders hope the walkouts will be avoided.” BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Dr. Robert Laurenson and Dr. Vivek Trivedi said: “We have been clear from the outset of these talks that we needed to move at pace and if we did not have a credible offer, we would be forced to call strikes. After five weeks of intense talks, the Government was unable to present a credible offer on pay by the deadline. Instead, we were offered an additional 3 per cent, unevenly spread across doctors’ grades, which would still amount to pay cuts for many doctors this year. It is clear the Government is still not prepared to address the real-terms pay cuts doctors have experienced since 2008.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said the Government would “immediately look to come back to the table” if the junior doctors strikes were called off. “It is disappointing that despite significant progress the BMA junior doctors committee have walked away from negotiations and declared new strikes, which will result in more disruption for patients and extra pressure on NHS services and staff as we enter a busy winter period, risking patient safety,” she said.

“I have been clear that I respect the work of doctors in training and want to work with them to settle this dispute. We have agreed a fair and reasonable offer with the BMA’s consultants committee which is being put to members for vote following constructive talks.”

COVER Mag 8th Dec (2 articles) – One in five adults considering buying health insurance: AXA UK

One in five adults are seriously considering buying health insurance in the next three months to achieve more convenient access to doctors’ appointments, AXA UK found.

According to the insurer’s second Customer Lifestyle Report, which surveyed 2,000 UK adults, 40% have found their current financial situation to negatively impact their mental wellbeing. Spending cuts on the use of electrical appliances and gifts, alongside general concerns around costs, have impacted the mental wellbeing of respondents. Half of those surveyed agreed that not being able to afford things they want and need negatively impacts their self-esteem, and over half described themselves as ‘getting by’ in terms of mental health.

Insured private healthcare treatments hit record high in H1 2023

Private healthcare treatments in H1 2023 reached a record number of 443,000, driven by an all-time high number of insured admissions, according to Broadstone’s analysis of the latest data from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) on private medical admissions.

 The data revealed a 7% increase on the 414,000 in H1 2022 and is 13% higher than the 391,000 admissions record in H1 2019 before Covid-19 caused significant disruption in the NHS. Insured admissions have been a major driver of the growth in private treatments, as they make up more than two-thirds (69%) of total treatments in H1 2023 and rose 12% year-on-year compared to 2022 while self-pay registered a small decline.   

The Times 16th Dec – Rise of the month-long wait just to see your GP

Millions of people are waiting more than a month for a GP appointment and more patients are going private. Some have given up trying to contact their NHS GP at all, a patient watchdog says, while others ae going instead to overstretched A&E departments.

Private health insurers report rising demand for GP appointments. About 14.9 million appointments took place more than 28 days after being booked in the first ten months of this year, analysis by The Times found, already well above the 12.8 million such waits in whole of last year.

The total for the year is on course to pass any in comparable records. The previous highest was 15.2 million, in 2019. In October alone 2.6 million appointments took place more than 28 days after booking, one in 13. That was almost a million more than in the same month before the pandemic, and 200,000 more than in October last year.

Separate analysis of official statistics showed 28,000 excess deaths across the UK in the first six months of the year, with the biggest rise among adults aged 50 to 64. More of them were dying early from preventable conditions  such as heart disease and diabetes. The private health insurer Vitality said that 40 per cent of claims were now for private GP consultations, up from 4 per cent in 2015, whilst Spire Healthcare said its network of private GPs had provided 41 per cent more appointments than last year.

GPs are dealing with rising demand for appointments but fewer full-time, fully qualified doctors to provide them. Some of the demand is due to an ageing population with more long-term problems, but GPs are also the first port of call for patients on hospital waiting lists enduring pain or poor mental health. Analysis by the IPPR think tank of the national GP patient survey this year found that about one in eight of those who could not get a GP appointment went to A&E instead, up from about one in 13 in 2021.

The Times has uncovered a number of recent inquests of people who had struggled to get hold of their GP before they died. Ronald Leslie Harris from Hereford killed himself in June while waiting weeks for a GP appointment to discuss mental health difficulties. Kaine Carlon, 34, was found dead at his home in Kearsley, near Bolton, in January. He had undiagnosed type 1 diabetes, and his flatmate said he had tried to make an appointment with his GP but had been unable to do so.

While most of the 34.2 million GP appointments in October took place within a week, a further 4.8 million patients faced waits of between 15 and 28 days. Of the 2.6 million GP appointments taking place more than a month after being booked, many will be for things like Covid-19 and flu vaccination, or checks that need to happen a number weeks after surgery.

NHS and medical leaders said that problems could worsen amid falling GP numbers and suggestions that many surgeries could close. As of October, there were the equivalent of 27,368 full-time, fully qualified GPs in the NHS in England. This was 761 fewer than in December 2019, when the Tory manifesto promised an extra 6,000 GPs by 2024.

‘Ringing at 8am still gets you nowhere’

Getting a routine appointment with a GP has been ”fundamentally impossible”, says Marianne, one of many Times readers who shared their difficulties. The booking system at Marianne’s system is typical of many. “There are supposedly a limited number of routine appointments per day which cannot be booked in advance,” she said.

“However, even if you phone at 8am sharp these appointments have already been filled by the time I have got through and only urgent appointments remain. On some days even the urgent appointments have been filled.”

BBC News 28th Dec – Immunotherapy trial halves the size of woman’s incurable tonsil tumour

A woman with “incurable” mouth cancer has said seeing her tonsil tumour half in size as the result of a clinical trial was a cause for celebration. Jeanette Joyce said she joined a trial at The Christie in Manchester in 2022 because she “had nothing to lose.” She said it had been “a 100% positive experience” and she had “not experienced any side-effects.”

Consultant oncologist Dr. Robert Metcalf said it was “early days” but the trial was on “the right trajectory.” The tumour on her left tonsil is the second Mrs. Joyce has had to deal with, having previously been treated for an unrelated cancer on her right tonsil in May 2021. The 64-year-old, from Northwich in Cheshire, underwent 33 doses of radiotherapy and two cycles of chemotherapy for her first cancer and was given the all-clear in July 2021.

Mrs. Joyce was then told the cancer was now in the other tonsil and was not curable. She was also told it was in three other places in her palate and  palliative care was her only option. “I was so shocked, stunned and in disbelief,” she said. She added that she felt like she was “staring into my own coffin” and had “even started planning the music for my funeral.”

However, she did not accept her fate and asked to be referred to a clinical trial which she started in December 2022. The treatment involves having an immunotherapy drug intravenously every six weeks, which helps the immune system recognise cancer and kill it, and an injection of a protein into her leg every three weeks.   

She said she was “living life to the full, being able to eat anything I like, and that includes tucking into a nice juicy steak.” Dr. Robert Metcalf said she was “doing very well and was on the right trajectory.” He said the trial, which involved 150 patients, had “shown some promising results with half the patients responding well. It’s still early days, but we’re hopeful this drug combination could become a standard treatment for some patients with head and neck cancer in the future,” he added.

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So that’s a ‘wrap’ for the new year, trusting that you enjoyed those 5 articles with a variety of source and content. Until February, please steer clear of the usual seasonal lurgies, as well as staying dry and warm with the more wintery weather still to come, without any Covid related articles included this month, let’s trust that they’ll remain more on the ‘back-burner.’

Yours sincerely

Daniel Donoghue

MD of Surrey Circle Health

Specialist Whole of Market Private Medical Insurance Brokers

January 2024 Health News

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